Campaign Haiti


Just before the French revolution, the Caribbean island of Haiti (Saint Domingue) was the richest colony in the world, where slaves producing unheard of wealth from sugar and coffee plantations. Following the successful revolution by the enslaved population of Haiti in 1792, the British sensed blood in the water. They sent a massive expeditionary force to capture the island for Britain, reinstate slavery and bring the colony’s magnificent wealth into the hands of the British Empire.

“But the drain of men and money was too great. By the end of 1796, after three years of war, the British had lost 80,000 soldiers including 40000 actually dead, the latter number exceeding the total losses of Wellington’s army from death, discharges, desertion and all causes from the beginning to the end of the Peninsular War. The cost in San Domingo alone had been £300,000 in 1794, £800,000 in 1795, £2,600,000 in 1796 and in January 1797 alone it was £700,000.”


Over the last 500 years, the armed forces of the United Kingdom have undertaken military campaigns in all but 20 countries worldwide. Some of these have been glorious, some have been ignominious, many have been forgotten. But what did our great grandfathers actually go through to uphold and sustain the chimera of empire? We look at 8 international campaigns conducted by Britain during its age of empire. We talk about the geopolitics of the era, how the war came about, who were its protagonists, what were the causes and the main issues and denouements. And we look at how those campaigns were conducted on the ground, via the lives of the “cannon fodder” footsoldier. What did they wear? Was it practical? Was it comfortable? Was it waterproof? What did they eat? Was it nutritious? What was its calorie content? Could you march on it? Where did they sleep? How did they travel? What did they do for entertainment? Could they write home? Did they ever expect to go home? And what if they got sick? What ailments would they have encountered? How were they treated? Were they survivable? Were these young men from the provinces even vaguely equipped mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, for the rigours of campaign?

Session 2: ZULULAND – 1879

Campaign Natal